May 22, 2013
Nah, We Straight
Posted on Sep 11, 2012
6. You get to watch Thurston lead by example. After telling us about the time he and everyone on the blackness panel realized they were black, he asks us, the readers, to recall the first time we realized we were a race and how, if at all, that realization affected us. He follows that up by asking whether we’ve ever wanted to not be whatever race we are. And he asks us to imagine “the future of blackness.” To that end, the “How To Be Black” experience not only includes updated commentary from the author via Twitter and the enhanced e-book, but an interactive website and a content curation site where readers and trolls alike can weigh in with their thoughts on “how to be black.” The point? There’s no sense in being black all alone. Being black is about being part of something bigger than you.
Thurston leaves readers with a powerful example of anti-racist activism. Through a profound personal narrative and a particular political viewpoint he explains why it’s important to be who we are. And he explains why the most important part of being who we are is talking about who we are. But this isn’t narcissistic chatter. Thurston is interested in communication that leads to community. This means knowing as much about our origins as we do about our aspirations. It means curating a more thorough, honest and educated version of African-American (i.e., American) history so we see that ending oppression is not just a job for black people. It means understanding that the longing for a world without racism is a move toward a world without race. And communication, on the spiritual and emotional levels, becomes community when we understand that being “black” really means being a holistic human being.
In the end, “How To Be Black” is a prologue to racial dialogue rather than a post-racial epilogue or monologue. It is clear from Thurston’s emotionally, geographically and socially moving narrative that being “black” is really an invitation to everyone. That’s where the book moves from ingenuity to profundity. Thurston reminds us that we all have to learn “how to be” whoever we are for the simple reason that all other identities are taken.
And if that’s not enough to persuade you to read this book then Thurston has one more reason for you: “If you don’t buy this book you’re a racist. You don’t want to be a racist, do you?” The answer, since “How To Be Black” is a New York Times best-seller, appears to be no. And the collective desire that that “no” represents is not just hopeful. It’s revolutionary.
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